The Eight Mistakes in Poker by David Sklansky A Note from Two Plus Two: Recently a post in our forum mentioned David Sklansky's essay the "Eight Mistakes in Poker." The fact is this may have been David's most important poker column. However, it appears in the poker section in Getting the Best of It which has not been as widely read. Therefore, we would like to share this essay with our internetfamily. Not too long ago, I was trying to decide on what my next poker article should be about. Normally I would pick some sort of bad play that a novice was likely to make. I would dissect it and show why it was wrong. Then I would give the correct play (in most circumstances). Since I have seen hundreds of bad plays in poker I had plenty to choose from. Then something hit me. With all thearguments and analysis as to how to play a poker hand, there are really only eight things you can do wrong in a flat limit game. after all, there are really very few options in poker. When it is up to you to bet, you can bet or check. When there is a bet to you, you can call, raise or fold. Thus any "bad play" that you might make during a poker hand must fall into one of eight categories. Upon realizingthis I had the subject for this chapter: Define and analyze the eight general mistakes in poker and give some specific examples where they might come up. I consider the following chapter one of my most important and useful to the serious poker player and have thus placed it first in this section. What makes one person a winning poker player and a second person a losing one? Assuming they both playin equally tough games, the obvious answer is that the winning player plays better. What does it mean to play better? This question can be answered in many ways, but it all boils down to one thing: the better player makes the correct play more often in a particular situation. In other words, he makes fewer major mistakes. What kind of mistakes is a bad player apt to make? On first glance, it mayseem that there are many bad plays that one can make in poker; the fact of the matter is that they all fall into one of eight categories. When someone is playing limit poker, there are only five possible options. If he is first to act, he can check or bet. If someone else has bet, he can call, raise or fold. (How much to bet or raise is an additional decision in no-limit poker. Thus, no-limit addsthe possibility of betting or raising the wrong amount. This mistake will not be covered in this chapter.) All limit poker plays can be reduced to one of these five decisions. Making the wrong decision is the only error that can be made. Every poker mistake can thus be placed in one of the following eight categories:
Checking when you should bet. Betting when you should check. Calling when youshould fold. Calling when you should raise. Folding when you should call. Folding when you should raise. Raising when you should call. Raising when you should fold.
These mistakes are made by good and bad players. However, some of these errors are worse than others, and the bad player is more apt to make one of the critical mistakes. Let us examine each of the foregoing possible mistakes.Mistake No. 1. Checking When You Should Bet. This is one of the most common and critical mistakes in poker. When there are more cards to come, it is usually correct to bet a mediocre hand if you are first to act. This is true even if your hand figures to be second best, and it is especially true if you have to call after you have checked and your opponent has bet. Betting accomplishes two things.Your opponent may fold if his hand isn't as good as you thought. Also, even if he doesn't fold, you have shown strength that may allow you to steal the pot on a later round. A common example of this mistake is checking something like
on fourth street in seven-card stud, even if you only have two eights and think he has two queens. Not betting is wrong. Another situation in which...